Competence and Character in Leadership
I hope to provide you with a solid base of content to develop your own leadership abilities, whatever your leadership context. Two of the most important elements are competence and character. They are vital, and they play an important relationship to each other as well
Competence has to do with your skill sets. They are those special abilities you have which help you clarify where you can best invest your time and energy. God originally told us to subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28), and we all have different talents for that. Here are a few of the key ones:
- Visioning: The ability to see the big picture in the future, and create it from nothing. Visionary leaders have the 50,000 foot view and see where the organization could be tomorrow, no matter where it is today.
- Strategizing: Being able to think through the plan of what will get the organization from beginning to goal. The strategist has a path in mind, and knows what the necessary resources and timelines are.
- Relating: Connecting with others, to create trust with them, direct them and develop them. Relating is that special ability to have people feel like they belong. Your directs will put up with a lot of struggle when they feel like you relate to them.
- Executing: The “ops” gift, which is the ability to simply make sure that what needs to be done, really gets done. Executors don’t get a lot of glory, but they are the linemen who know that systems and processes are vital.
- Technical: Often, a leader will also have some skill set that isn’t about leadership, but is important to an organization. For example, you may be an engineer, a scientist , a teacher or an artist. This gives you a “deep bucket” that can also be useful as you lead, and also lends credibility to your people as someone who “has been there.”
Character is often seen as having integrity, being honest and being reliable. It is all of those, but it is broader than that. I define character as that set of capacities the leader needs to meet the demands of reality. That is, leadership has its demands: running the organization, making sure people are in their proper places, connecting with them, dealing with finances, sales, marketing, administration, and so forth. You need strong fiber! A person of character is one who connects well; is clear in her responsibilities; can handle problems and negative realities; and understands her role and mission. The Bible teaches that perseverance produces character, and character produces hope (Rom. 5:4). Character is best developed over time, and it creates a leader who lives in hope.
Finally, these two elements rest on each other. You must have both. A person who has character and the wrong competence will not be effective. And an individual who has competence and a character problem can ruin the culture of an organization. However, always start with character. It is the core of your being. And if your character is working, you will naturally be inclined to find the best fit for your competencies. Character drives us to growth, and that growth includes finding where your talents lie.
Every month, myself and my associate, Dallas-based executive coach Elaine Morris, will be providing business and leadership content for you. Let us know what is helpful, and let us know what you want us to write on! God bless you.